In the midst of the trials and tribulations of the past five months, 2020 can and should be a time for all of us to remember and share the good things from our family, friends, and community. To help you in that search, I offer you one of my favorite stories: “The Good Stuff” by Robert Fulghum. It first appeared in his book It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It. Here is my condensed, blog-friendly version of this Fulghum classic…
The box is marked “The Good Stuff.” It contains treasures that have survived many bouts of clean-it-out-and-throw-it-away. If the house ever catches on fire, the box goes with me when I run. One of the keepsakes in it is a ragged paper lunch bag. It has been in my care for 14 years, but it really belongs to my daughter Molly. One morning she handed me the bag as I was leaving for work. I stuffed it in my briefcase and rushed off. During lunch I tore open Molly’s bag and shook out its contents: hair ribbons, stones, a plastic dinosaur, a sea shell, used lipstick, chocolate kisses and 13 pennies. Rising to hustle off to my important labor, I swept Molly’s junk into the wastebasket. There wasn’t anything there I needed.
That evening Molly said, “Where’s my bag? The one I gave you this morning. I want it back. Plus, I forgot to put this note in it. Those are the things I really like and I thought you might like to play with them. Daddy, did you lose my bag?” I lied and said I just forgot to bring it home. I unfolded the note that didn’t get into the bag, which said “I love you, Daddy.” Molly had given me her treasures. All that a seven-year-old held dear. Love in a paper sack. And I had missed it. It wasn’t the first or the last time I felt my “Daddy Permit” was about to run out!
I went straight back to the office. The pilgrimage of a penitent. I told the janitor what had happened. He didn’t laugh. He smiled and said, “I have kids, too.” So the brotherhood of fools searched and found the treasures. You are never alone in these things.
The next evening I returned the bag to Molly. She put the objects in a row on the dining room table and told me the story of each one. Fairies had brought some of the things and I had given her the chocolate kisses. To my surprise, Molly gave me the bag again several days later. I felt forgiven, trusted and loved. Over several months the bag went with me from time to time. I began to think of it as “The Daddy Prize” and I tried to be good the night before, so I might be given it the next morning.
In time, Molly turned her attention to other things and found other treasures. She grew up. She gave me the bag one morning and never asked for its return. And so I have it still. It reminds me of all the times in this sweet life when I have missed the affection I was being given. So the worn paper sack is there in the box. Left over from a time when a child said, “Here – this is the best I’ve got – take it, it’s yours – such as I have, give I to thee.” I missed it the first time. But it’s my bag now.
Thank you… FUMCFW Friends… for remembering “The Good Stuff” in your life, and creatively sharing your treasures with others!
Dr. Mike Marshall
Associate Pastor of Leadership Development